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Are Towel Warmers Worth It?

contemporary towel warmer

I was built for a towel warmer. I even moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Austin, Texas for the sole reason of getting warmer, so you might say that I put a high-value on heat. But everyone’s different.

Towel warmers, also called heated towel rails, range in price from $35-$4,500. Factors that determine the price include quality, durability, control features, size, number of rails, and energy source. A towel warmer that heats evenly, is energy-efficient and durable can be well worth the expense.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the factors that determine if a towel warmer is worth the money. I’ll wrap up by showing you three towel warmers I definitely think are worth the money.

How Much Does a Towel Warmer Cost?

This table gives an overview of what you can expect from less and more expensive models:

DurabilityLighter-Weight MetalsHeavier-Weight Metals
PowerElectric or Plug-in with Lower WattageElectric or Plug-in with Higher Wattage; or Hydronic
SizeSmaller with Fewer RailsLarger with More Rails
ControlsNoneAuto Shut-Off, Built-In Timer and Temperature Control

While the most inexpensive electric towel warmers can be perfectly functional and warm your towels, higher-end models tend to give off more heat more evenly.  Higher-end towels are made of more durable materials, may include auto shut off with a built-in timer function, and will have more capacity or greater number of rails, and more original aesthetics.

Types of Towel Warmers: Electric and Hydronic

heated towel rail

The two types of towel warmers create heat from different energy sources in your home.

Electric Towel Warmers

Electric towel warmers run off the electricity in your house. These towel warmers add very little to a monthly electric bill as they are quite energy efficient. An electric towel warmer can either be hard-wired or plug-in. A hard-wired towel warmer comes with its own electrical box and usually needs to be installed by an electrician.

A plug-in towel warmer comes with a cord about 5-6 feet long, and can simply be plugged into your outlet like any other appliance.

Hydronic Towel Warmers

A hydronic towel warmer, or heated towel radiator, heats up by running water from your water system through the rails. You can control the temperature of a hydronic towel warmer by adjusting the maximum temperature on your home’s hot water tank. These are the most energy-efficient of all towel warmers.

However, it’s best to install this type of towel warmer during a remodel, as the piping needs to be connected to your hot water plumbing system or radiant heating system.

And if you’re looking for tips on how to make your bathroom more energy efficient overall, be sure to read this post.

Cost to Operate a Towel Warmer

towel warmer with yellow towel

Electric Towel Warmers

An electric towel warmer that runs at 100 watts uses as much energy as a soft lightbulb, while the towel warmers that heat faster and hotter may use as much as 500 watts of electricity. 

For comparison, at a cost of .10 cents per kilowatt, a 100-watt lightbulb that runs 4 hours a day costs $1.10 per month. And a home computer that is 500 watts and runs 4 hours a day at the same rate will add $6.10 to your monthly electric bill.

Let’s say you have a towel warmer that uses 100 watts and runs 24 hours per day. That will cost you $6.60 additional on your electric bill based on the figures just above. 

Hydronic Towel Warmers

Hydronic towel warmers run a small amount of hot water into the rails. They even cost less to run than electric towel warmers.

Towel Warmers Left on 24/7

Some towel warmers are designed to leave on around the clock. Contrary to popular opinion, this will use less energy because once the rails are heated to the optimal temperature it doesn’t require much more to maintain. Most energy is used to reach the desired temperature. 

Reduced Laundry

However, people who use towel warmers regularly often won’t throw their towels into the laundry as often. The reason is that the warmers not only dry the towels but also they kill mold and mildew that can grow in moisture. So you just don’t need to throw them in as frequently. 

And doing a load of laundry that you then throw into the dryer is going to use far more electricity than your towel warmer.

How Much Heat Does a Towel Warmer Put Off?

Towel Warmer By freestanding

Most towel warmers heat to 120 – 150 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the exact temperature depends on the number of towels on the rack, the type of towels and how long the electric towel rails are running. This temperature is safe to touch for 4 seconds or less without burning skin.

Will a Towel Warmer Heat My Bathroom?

Some people want a towel warmer that puts off enough heat to warm up a large bathroom on a chilly winter day. Others live in more moderate climates and just want to keep mildly warm when they leave the bath to avoid a chill. 

If you do hope to warm the bathroom as well, you’ll need a powerful model for your wish to come true, as many will not have enough heat to do this. Of course, whether your towel warmer can heat the bathroom will also depend on the ambient air temperature and the size of your bathroom.

How Long Will It Take to Reach Optimal Temperature?

While it’s important for some people to have a towel warmer that heats up very quickly, others are fine with a slower warming time as long as that saves them money upfront. Expect anywhere from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the wattage and model.

Will My Towels Heat Evenly?

One common complaint about some towel warmers is that they don’t evenly heat the towels. The last thing you want is to find cold patches on your otherwise warm and cozy towels. The more rails on the model, the easier it is to warm the towels more thoroughly. (At the end of this post, you’ll find some tricks to try that will help your towels heat up evenly, even if your towel warmer only has a few rails)

Great Uses for Towel Warmers

towel warmer in laundry room

Avoiding Shivers in the Bathroom

Most people want it to warm their towels for when they get out of the bath or shower. But keep in mind, because it can take a towel warmer 30-60 minutes to heat towels and you may have an entire family showering in the morning, think about how many towels you’ll want to fit on the rack. (Most can easily fit two regular-sized towels.) 

Not Just for Towels or the Bathroom

That said, there are other reasons people buy towels. Some like to heat smaller washcloths to use for facials. You might want to warm the clothes you’ll put on after you dry off, which can feel especially wonderful! Or, how about warming a bathrobe? 

Towel warmers aren’t only purchased for bathrooms. They can also be handy near the:

  • mudroom to warm winter gloves, scarves and jackets,
  • laundry room to dry delicates, or 
  • swimming pool, to warm bathing suits and towels.

Whatever your reason for wanting a towel warmer, it’s best to get clear on exactly what you’ll need before you make your purchase. This way you can be sure to get the towel warmer that’s worth the money to you.

3 Towel Warmer Styles & Best Bet Purchases

There are three main varieties of bathroom towel warmers: wall-mounted towel warmers, freestanding towel warmers and bucket towel warmers.

In this section, I’ll explain how to choose the type that will work best for you. I’ll also give you my Best Bet for each category. This is the towel warmer in this category that is worth it to me, and I believe that most of my readers will find the selected models worth the money, too.

Wall-Mounted Towel Warmers

Just as it sounds, a wall-mounted towel warmer is installed directly in your bathroom wall. A hard-wired model may require an electrician for installation. The towel warmer will come with the screws, wrench, bracket and wall-plate required to affix to your wall.

A wall-mounted towel warmer is the most popular type and purchased most frequently. It’s common to see wall-mounted towel warmers in luxury hotels and at spas.

Best Bet: Wall-Mounted Towel Warmer

Brushed Polish HEATGENE Hot Towel Warmer on Amazon

This HEATGENE Towel Warmer is worth the money. At $230, it’s moderately priced, but to me it’s worth it. Why? Because it has a lot of luxury features that can cost a heck of a lot more in other models. 

With 10 bars—10!—towels and clothes will heat evenly and thoroughly. (Look around and you’ll see that 10 bars really is hard to find at this price point.) It also comes with a built-in thermostat that will maintain 149°F(65°C) and help save energy. Your towels will be truly toasty and not merely warm. The HEATGENE Towel Warmer is hardwired and comes in several finishes, including brushed polish, mirror polish, and matte black. 

Finally, I’m a sucker for beauty. And this, to me, is a work of art for the wall. So if you’ve got the wall space and you don’t have toddlers or young children who might grab the bars, this might be worth it to you.

Freestanding Towel Warmers

Most freestanding towel warmers are hydronic or plug-in, rather than hardwired. A freestanding towel warmer can be so luxurious if you have the floor space. The benefit of a freestanding towel warmer is that it can easily be moved if you decide to put it in a different spot in the same bathroom, or move it to another room altogether.

If you go for a freestanding towel warmer, you’ll want to make sure that it’s steady on its feet. The last thing you want is a model that’s so lightweight that it will tip over every time you pull off a towel. You may find one that’s super cheap, but if it’s too flimsy, would it really be worth even a little money?

Best Bet: Freestanding Towel Warmer

Amba SAFSB-33 Towel Warmer on Amazon

Like my favorite wall-mounted towel warmer, this Amba Towel Warmer also has 10 bars—yay! Better yet, the vertical bars are heated as well. It’s made of 18/8 stainless steel and plugs into a 3-pronged, electrical outlet. You can purchase a 3-prong plugin timer separately, and then set it to go on a few hours before you hop in the bath or shower. It’s about $260.

You can easily fit two large towels on it and they’ll warm up nice and toasty quite quickly. Not much set up required–just attach the feet and plug it in. Because of the simple set up and beauty, it makes a great wedding or holiday gift. Anyone who suffers in the wintertime will find this towel warmer especially thrilling!

Bucket-Style Towel Warmer

A bucket-style towel warmer looks like a tall, narrow bucket. The advantages are that it has a slim footprint and can heat up towels quickly and evenly. They are also super-simple to use: no installation required. Just plug it in. The disadvantage is that it won’t add to the warmth of your bathroom and it won’t serve as an art piece on your wall. 

Best-Bet: Bucket Style Towel Warmer Worth the Money…

Zadro Luxury Towel Warmer

This Luxury Bucket-Style Towel Warmer by Zadro has an extra-large heating container but has a small footprint. You can put in two extra-large (40” x 70”) towels, no problem. It will easily fit into any bathroom corner or on top of a vanity. It has 4 auto-timer settings and an automatic shut-off switch. 

It also heats up in just 10 minutes. The inside will get quite hot to touch and leave your towels thoroughly and evenly warmed like perfectly soft and toasty marshmallows. Also, I can’t help but admire the little bamboo touches on the Zadro model. At about $140, it offers great value, too! 

Less Common Towel Warmer Configurations

While the types of towel warmers above are most common, you can also find some other configurations:

Swivel Style Towel Warmer

With swivel towel warmers, the bars are attached to a single vertical piece and then swivel out from the wall. 

Shelf Style Towel Warmer

Towel Warmer with Timer & LED Indicators at Amazon

There are also shelf towel warmers that are convenient for placing clothes on top and towels on the bars. 

Cabinet Style Towel Warmer

Elite Hot Towel CABI-Warmer at Amazon

Finally, there are cabinet towel warmers. These are most commonly used to hold washcloths and hand towels at spas, gyms or nail salons. They are meant to fit smaller towels. 

Best Type of Towel Warmer If You Have Young Kids

boy in bubble bath

On the one hand, it’s great to kill all those germs by drying your towels quickly and not having to throw them in the wash every single day. Plus your kids will love bathtime so much more if they can look forward to getting out and wrapped in a nice, warm towel. 

On the other hand, nothing is worth the possibility of a young child grabbing a hot towel bar and getting hurt. Every towel warmer should have built-in safety features. At the temperatures they heat to (100-150 degrees Faherenheit), a person could hold the bar for 4 seconds without getting burned.

Still…if I still had a young child at home, I’d consider one of these options:

  • A bucket-style towel warmer plugged in atop the vanity and out of reach.
  • An electric towel warmer that comes with temperature control and timer, so you can turn it off at a lower heat. (See wall-mounted HeatGene model discussed in detail above.)
  • I would avoid freestanding towel warmers, because I don’t want to risk my kids pulling it over on to them. They only weigh about 10 pounds but on a really little one, that’s just not good. Instead, get a wall-mount and put it high enough to be out of reach of babies and toddlers.
  • A hydronic towel warmer would be good. These allow you to adjust the temperature simply by lowering the maximum heat on your hot water tank. (As noted earlier, they are easiest to install during a remodel.)

5 Controls for a Towel Warmer

a hand adjusts the temperature on a towel warmer

There are 5 main types of controls you might find on your towel warmer. Luxury models may include all five. These are as follows:

  • Basic on/off switch – You’ll plug in your towel warmer or flick a switch to turn it on. With some models, a small light will go on to indicate optimal temperature has been reached.
  • Auto Shut Off – Some towel warmers come with this feature. Once a certain temperature is reached, the towel warmer turns off.
  • Timer – Many towel warmers have timed options, so you can set the towel warmer to run for 30/60/120 minutes and then it will auto shut off.
  • Countdown Switch – Some towel warmers allow you to program a time when it will go on and off.
  • Thermostat – There are luxury electric towel warmers that let you set the temperature and maintain it as you like.

Are Ultra Luxury Towel Warmers Worth It?

luxury hydronic towel warmer
Luxury hydronic towel warmer with powder-coated steel

Above the $400 price point, you can find extra wide towel warmers or towel warmers with up to 28 bars. Some luxury towel warmers allow the user to set a whole host of conditions under which you’d like it to operate, including temperature and multiple times of day to turn on and off. Luxury electric towel warmers also offer higher wattage, so they heat up more quickly.

You will also find heftier rails on some of the models and more out-of-the-box designs.

Towel Warmer Materials and Finishes

Towel warmers are made from a variety of materials, including:

  • stainless steel,
  • cast iron,
  • rubber and
  • aluminum. 

Towel warmers are available in a wide variety of finishes including:

  • brushed nickel
  • polished chrome
  • powder-coated steel.

How to Get Optimal Results from a Towel Warmer

towel warmer with yellow towel

You’ll have to experiment with your particular model to see how to heat your towels best. Here are some tricks to try:

  • Fold your towels vertically before hanging over bars.
  • Place other towels that you don’t need heated on top of the towels folded against the bars. This will help keep the heat it, especially if the ambient air is cool.
  • Try to fold your towels vertically and then weave them in and out of the bars rather than just draping them over a single bar.
  • Each towel warmer has its particular quirks, but these are some tricks designed to help you find the perfect way to heat your towels to perfection!

Are Towel Warmers Worth It?

For someone who moved from Boston to Austin simply to get out of the cold, heck yeah! Even here in Texas, we get a spell of winter, though no one seems to believe me about that. Anything that can make me toastier is going to make me happier, too.

I’ll tell you one thing: a towel warmer can keep your towels in pristine condition by drying them quickly every time you use them. And if you’re looking for the perfect towels to use with your new towel warmer, you’ll want to read this post.

If you’re someone who just likes to be warm and toasty in the bathroom, first of all, welcome to the club. Second of all, you should seriously consider installing a radiant floor heating system. It will heat your bathroom from beneath the floor, warming both the tiles and the air.

Like towel warmers, there are hydronic and electric systems. Either one is more energy-efficient than a traditional HVAC system. Learn much more in my post Are Heated Bathroom Floors Worth It?

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